This post was edited by stealth at 2011-12-12 01:13|
Gillard's uranium-to-India policy is dangerously wrong: Former Australian PM
December 12, 2011OPINION
Canberra's abject submission to US pressure is shameful.
ON SELLING uranium to India, Julia Gillard is wrong, dead wrong. Ramming the policy change through a deeply divided ALP national conference last weekend was not smart politics, but a failure of leadership.
The unequivocal longer-term consequences of this policy backflip are aggravating India's nuclear arms race with Pakistan and eroding the already failing brakes on proliferation of nuclear weapons.
A nuclear war between India and Pakistan is not some theoretical possibility, but a real and growing danger. War has broken out between them three times since World War II, and cross-border support for terrorism has created further crises. An attack on the Indian parliament building in December 2001 triggered mobilisation of half a million troops.
Only one year after nuclear test explosions by India and then Pakistan in 1998, they went to war in Kashmir.One million soldiers were mobilised, and nuclear threats made by both sides. Pakistani officials have repeatedly said if Indian forces crossed the border, Pakistan would respond with nuclear weapons. Pressure to do so would be fuelled by the proximity of Pakistani cities and forces to the border, Pakistan's military inferiority to India, extreme elements within Pakistan's military, and the adoption by India in 2004 of a war doctrine called ''Cold Start'', involving rapid attacks into Pakistan from the outset of conflict. In any crisis, deliberate or inadvertent nuclear escalation could occur. The possibility that some of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal could fall into the hands of the Taliban adds concern.
Between them, India and Pakistan possess 170 to 210 nuclear weapons. Both add more each year. Indeed, Pakistan has the world's fastest growing nuclear arsenal.
The consequences of any such war would be global. Millions of tonnes of black, sooty smoke from burning cities would cool and darken the Earth's entire surface. Killing frosts, shortened growing seasons, rainfall decline, monsoon failure and increase in ultraviolet radiation would combine to slash food production around the world over successive years. Australia would not be spared.
Contrary to claims by the Australian government, India has an appalling record on nuclear proliferation. In 1974, India detonated a plutonium bomb, violating agreements to use only for peaceful purposes nuclear fuel supplied by the US in a reactor supplied by Canada.
Nuclear trade with India trashes a founding principle of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty: nuclear trade should be limited to states that have forsworn nuclear weapons by joining the treaty. A more effective way to undermine the incentive for countries to honour their non-proliferation obligations could hardly have been crafted. And on what consistent basis could Australia deny uranium to Pakistan, or Israel, or Iran?
A reason India wants access to nuclear trade including uranium is precisely to further its nuclear proliferation. Senior Indian military leaders have publicly said so. What is gained under the deal? Eight additional reactors, for a total of 14 out of 22, will be subject to safeguards. India can determine which facilities are designated civilian and subject to safeguards, and has not committed to make safeguards permanent or unconditional.
India reserves the right to classify future reactors as civilian or military. It was not required in return to commit to significant positive measures - indeed, it has made no nuclear disarmament commitments, it has not ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, it has not stopped or committed to stop production of enriched uranium or plutonium for weapons, nor committed to full-scope safeguards.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan is dramatically stepping up its production of both plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons, and blocking the Conference on Disarmament from working on a treaty to end production of these materials for nuclear weapons.
The South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty, of which Australia was a founding signatory, allows uranium exports only to countries that have full-scope, comprehensive nuclear safeguards in place. India has consistently refused full-scope safeguards, thus selling uranium to India would breach our international treaty obligations.
At best, exporting uranium to India would allow use of more of its own uranium for weapons. At worst, Australian uranium could end up in nuclear weapons exploded in Pakistan or China. Uranium and its fission products will remain radioactive and potentially weapons-usable over aeons, an enduring legacy unaffected by the transitory comings and goings of fickle prime ministers and governments.
When my government began the sale of uranium in 1977, we made a commitment that sales would be made only to countries that were signatories to the non-proliferation treaty. We also argued that if we were involved in the trade we could make sure that safeguards were applied in the strictest and most technically advanced manner.
Now the Gillard government has done the very reverse. This has happened as a result of US pressure dating back to the days of President George W. Bush. It is a disgrace.
Malcolm Fraser was prime minister from 1975 to 1983.